I wish there were a happy button. You know, a button on the inside of you that you can push, and there you go, you’re “happy.” I don’t have one of those. I’ve often heard talk of such a mythical thing. You’ve probably heard it too – “Choose to be happy, you deserve it,” something like that. Every time I hear that, or something like it, I wonder where this mysterious happy button is and how it works. Does it actually work that way for some people? It’s in their “chooser?” They get to just make up their minds and choose to be happy?

I find that incredibly hard to believe. Impossible, actually.

First, or second of all, whichever number, this happy we speak of today, in this culture, here, now, is really just a construct. I don’t believe it’s something that exists in and of itself. I don’t think it floats out there waiting for us to grab hold of it and stuff it inside ourselves. It’s an idea which has developed over time, and we have come to collectively believe in it.

Now, even if it did exist somehow, in the way we think about it, to think that we can reach through the deep complexity of our human existence and simply “turn it on” is, honestly, kind of ridiculous.

Certainly there are things we can choose. We can choose, most of the time, what actions we will take, or not take. Even that is more complicated than we often imagine. But, sure, we can maybe choose to do more things that are positive as opposed to negative. We can choose not to speak when we obviously shouldn’t. We can choose not to drown ourselves in dark things when we feel (those of us who struggle with such things) the darkness coming on (and it does just “come on” for mostly no reason). I don’t have to close the curtains, turn the lights out, and listen to The Cure and The Smiths all day, or God forbid, Bright Eyes or Elliott Smith.

Yes, we can choose some things – for some things and against some other things. But I would be in favor of banning the phrase, “just choose to be happy,” or anything quite like it.

Wrapping this deal up, I’ll say this: As a Christian, I would echo both Scripture and Tradition by advising that we pray always. Never stop praying. If your prayer is simply groaning to God, not knowing what to say, do that. If you can only mumble the memorized prayers of your faith training, do that. Throw your hands out wide and let your heart speak. Do something!